See how the owners of a large townhome have a landscape designer solve the problem of a sloped backyard and a dull front yard.
By June MaysMore in Outdoors
Now the big challenge: the hill of chert. To block the view of the lower section of chert, new hardscape — a retaining wall six feet tall — has been planned along the back of the deck and extending another 10 to 15 feet. Because the townhome is faced with a brick that would be difficult to match, the owners will probably choose rendered concrete blocks for the wall material, capped with local stone. The wall extending beyond the deck will be stepped down with the slope. Good-quality soil will be brought in to fill behind the wall. Once the retaining wall is in place, the old decking will be removed and replaced with a synthetic flooring material. At that time, the owners will decide if they want to extend the deck, making it wider.
Along the back of the property at the top of the hill, nine Nellie R. Stevens holly (Ilex x ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ zones 6-9) on five-foot centers will block the view of the chainlink fence. Large shrubs will be planted for instant effect. Creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’) will be planted to cascade from the hollies toward the retaining wall. Even though all soil has been scraped away, the addition of fresh soil should help the rosemary survive, as it does on Mediterranean rocky hillsides. Along the left side of the backyard, nine tea olives (Osmanthus fragrans, zones 6-9) will march up the hill on four-foot centers, creating a dense privacy screen.
The neighbor to the right has a hillside too, though not as steep and covered with an undeveloped mix of naturally occurring plants. The owners wanted some screening along this border, so one of the owners’ favorite shrubs, false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Çrippsii’ zones 5-8), was chosen to bring color and interesting shape year round on that property line. False cypress can grow to 12 feet tall and six feet wide, so five will be planted on six-foot centers to span the distance between the house and the Nellie Stevens hollies. Until they grow large enough to fill the space, gardenias (zones 7b-10) will fill the gaps.
A dramatic weeping Japanese maple has been recommended for the area below the retaining wall to the right of the deck. The exact placement will depend on whether the owners decide to increase the size of the deck or not. This is a beautiful year-round tree, showing off its lovely bones in winter and delicate foliage during the other three seasons.
What a challenge! The owners can’t wait to get started. Check back to see the after pictures.